Monday, January 13, 2014

Keep on Nursing in Public, B!^&$es

In the documentary "Breastmilk" someone says something like, "You have to be almost mean to breastfeed."  I don't know if I remember that quite right, but it was something like that.  I understood that as "You have to be determined."  That's how I felt about natural birth.  I felt like I had to be completely and totally committed to the goal of having a natural birth if I was going to get through without screaming for an epidural.  And I think maybe you do have to be absolutely committed to breastfeeding to keep at it without being derailed by one of the many, many barriers you may encounter. This is NOT to say that not meeting birthing and breastfeeding goals is the result of too little determination, only that success is not the result of a lackadaisical attitude about it.

The other day, I had a different interpretation of that line - a literal one.  I was sitting near my in-laws at a cafe table (in Lititiz, PA!  Get it?) and Bellybean signed, unprompted for the first time ever(!), that he wanted to nurse.  And I thought, *#%^ it, my baby needs to eat."  And so I nursed him.

I don't know who my mean attitude was toward (my in-laws have always supported breastfeeding), but I think it was toward me!

I've been feeling touched out, and reluctant to nurse my toddler in public.  I can't explain why.  Maybe because now that he's bigger it's easier to nurse seated than walking around, and when we're busy out and about I don't want to stop to nurse.  Maybe because after settling down and getting him access to the boob, he often only takes a few sips - surely he can't need to nurse if it's just a few sips!  (This is something that goes through my head but I don't really believe it - nursing is about more than just food.)  Sometimes it's because I'm somewhere that I want to be discreet, like sitting in the crowded cafetorium next to someone's fifth grader at my kid's school choir concert, and I know odds are good that Bellybean will shove my shirt up my boob away from his face, and will scream if I try to re-arrange it to cover any breast flesh.

I realized before our trip that for the first time (I don't remember it ever being an issue with my oldest two), I was nervous about breastfeeding around my extended family over the holidays.  With my older boys, I nursed so discreetly that I never worried anyone would see my boob or care that I was breastfeeding.  But Bellybean is less accommodating, and I don't want to feel awkward or deal with rude comments if I'm showing skin around family - or to feel anxious in anticipation of a bad reaction (that will likely never come).

But that day was like a little breakthrough.  Sort of.  It was like I gave myself a kick in the pants that set my priorities straight.  He's not an infant anymore, and his wants aren't needs in the same way they once were.  But when my 18-month-old asks to nurse, he does need something from me - milk, or connection, or to feel centered.  He needs something that it's likely only I can provide.  And while sometimes he could be distracted by table food or a toy, I think he feels rejected when I don't nurse him.

He needs - and I need for him - to feel loved and valued.  So *#%^ it - as best as I am able, if my little boy wants to nurse, I will nurse him.  Even if I feel awkward or am busy or touched out or it's inconvenient.  I know from experience how fast this time will go.  I can buck up for a few minutes here and there.  I can re-frame my thoughts.  I can do a better job at self-care so I have more to give him.

I can be sure that our breastfeeding relationship is a positive one, and not one that either of us resents.  Even if I have to get a little mean about it.

Do you find it challenging to nurse your toddler?
Have you had to get a little b!^&$y with yourself, or anyone else,
to affect an attitude adjustment?


  1. *#%^ it - Rock on! Great post. Nursing a toddler takes some guts out in public so good for you!

    1. Thanks, Paala! I usually use more diplomatic language here, but to pretend I said to myself, "Aw, shucks," would hardly be authentic! :) Actually, I fretted & fretted over the title, but I must admit that watching "Pretty Little Liars" is a guilty pleasure of mine, & the idea of this title amused the crap out of me! I just hope no one takes offense.